Lately, I have been thinking a lot about change. Change is a given. Change is unavoidable. Change is what drives progress, growth and moving forward. However, for some people and depending on the circumstances change can be very challenging, particularly when it is change that is unexpected, unwanted or beyond our control. Change means letting go of something known and often a shift to something new and foreign. It means doing things differently and moving away from the status quo. It means stepping out of our comfort zone, while embarking on a journey into unchartered waters, and with that comes uncertainty. Ultimately it is not change that makes most people uncomfortable but instead the risk and unpredictability of the unknown. So how do we best support others in a time of change? How do we ease feelings of fear and anxiety?
- Focus our positive energy on moving forward. Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new”. Negative energy is wasted energy. We reap what we sow. The fruit is in the seed. When we put positive energy out into the world, it comes back.
- Be compassionate with one another. Plato reminds us, “Be kind. For everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about”. Each of us processes and deals with change and uncertainty in our own way. In times of change first and foremost we need to be empathetic and patient with one another. Keeping lines of communication open is key and we must be mindful of supporting those around us in whatever way they may need.
- Embrace new learning. Seth Godin suggests, “Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do because they’re hiding out in the comfortable zone.” We do our best learning when we are pushed out of our comfort zone, move in new directions and are forced to imagine the possibilities.
- Expect resistance and plan for it. Frederick Douglas once said, “If there is no struggle there is no progress”. One might argue that we can strive to remain positive, aim to model empathy and welcome new learning as individuals; but ultimately how do we support those who are struggling with or who refuse to embrace change moving forward?
Realistically, every situation and context is different and we need to honour this and recognize that everyone’s “Point A” or starting place and change of pace, is unique to them. Supporting and scaffolding levels of change is a necessity. In driving change we must also ensure it is informed change, guided by professional inquiry and grounded in research. In addition, we must be clear in and remain true to, our original intents and focus for change. When we are transparent and clear about why we are doing what we are doing, we build trust and connections flourish.
In the realm of education, the end game should always be; doing what is best for learners. With any change we implement, our utmost target must be our students’ success. There will always be individuals who may be apprehensive of change or even stand in the way of it. These people may be in need of more than a just a gentle nudge at times. For those who remain resistant or even try to sabotage forward progress, we need to continue to be clear and explicit in our vision and plan for student success. In the end, the train is moving and for those who don’t eventually get on board, get left at the station.
Change and uncertainty are inevitable and typically a non-negotiable in the name of progress. How we choose to deal with each and the path we take along the way is up to us.